Ok, so this is going to sound a bit like heresy, but here goes:
I like male only Freemasonry, and certainly have no personal interest in sitting in lodge with a woman. I enjoy our fraternity as it is, and with minor exceptions, I love everything about Freemasonry, and do not see any need to invite women into my lodge.
We know that men and women think differently, work differently, and are surrounded by different energies. Different is not bad, it just is a fact of life. Different does not in any sense imply superiority or inferiority. We should celebrate our differences instead of trying to force everyone into the same mold!
Women have been practicing the tenets and teachings of our gentle craft since at least the 1800’s, and there are records of women earlier than that. Even the United Grand Lodge of England admits they exist:
"There exist in England and Wales at least two Grand Lodges solely for women. Except that these bodies admit women, they are, so far as can be ascertained, otherwise regular in their practice (emphasis added!). There is also one, which admits both men and women to membership. They are not recognized by this Grand Lodge and intervisitation may not take place. There are, however, informal discussions from time to time with the women's Grand Lodges on matters of mutual concern. Brethren are therefore free to explain to non-Masons, if asked, that Freemasonry is not confined to men (even though this Grand Lodge does not itself admit women). Further information about these bodies may be obtained by writing
to the Grand Secretary."
"The Board is also aware that there exist other bodies not directly imitative of pure antient Masonry, but which by
implication introduce Freemasonry, such as the Order of the Eastern Star. Membership of such bodies, attendance at their meetings or participation in their ceremonies is incompatible with membership of this Grand Lodge."
Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but more an acknowledgement of a fact. There really are women who use our rituals, teach our philosophy, employ our working tools and live our Masonic tenets. They were first prepared to be made Masons in their hearts, as were all of us in the regular Grand Lodges.
Now, before you burst into flames of righteous indignation, as far as I know, no one is seriously suggesting the regular Grand Lodges should throw open their door and invite women to join our lodges or to allow intervisitation. What I am suggesting is that since, as the old saying goes, if it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s probably a duck, and these women are acting as Masons in all senses except that they are women, that we might, oh, I don’t know, actually treat them as if they were… Masons?
So, you are probably asking me what that means, and that is an excellent question, mostly because its one I have been wrestling with myself for some time now. What is it that makes us a Mason? Our obligation (and keeping it), at least according to the catechism of the Entered Apprentice in my jurisdiction.
Its not the secrets of a Mason that make us Masons, because any profane can acquire the secrets in a library or good sized bookstore. So, minus gender, you can tell a Mason by how s/he talks, how s/he acts, how s/he keeps his word, and how s/he carries themselves in society. So if we ignore gender, we can tell someone is a Mason by how they ARE before g-d and mankind.
Its our obligation then that makes us a Mason. Therefore, lets use that obligation as the measuring stick, a 24 inch gauge, if you will. We are called to act upon the square, keep a tongue of good report, treat people on the level, and act uprightly before g-d and man. We are to act prudently, with justice and temperance, having faith, hope and charity in our hearts and actions.
There are some that argue, and I have been one of them, that since they could not legally receive charters from a regular grand lodge, and because a brother somewhere violated his obligations to make a woman mason, somehow these women cannot be masons. Uh, so the sins of the father are to be visited upon the daughters? THEY did not take that obligation, not to be present at or assist in the making a woman a Mason, so how can they be held to that standard?
I have written many times that if it were in my power (and its probably good that its not), I would recognize all regular practicing Masons and allow intervisitation. I am not willing to go that far with Women's Obediences, but lets be realistic here... as the UGLE noted, OTHER than that they are women, they are regular practicing Masons.
If our sisters (yes, I know they prefer to be called brother, but I am only human here…) live their obligations as we do, then why can't we, why shouldn't we, extend them the same consideration, the same hand of brotherly love and relief? I am not calling for us to extend regularity or recognition to these obediences, but, in the name of Masonic tolerance and brotherly love, since they are Masons in all but gender, can we not at least treat them as cousins, as Masons who just can't belong to our lodges?
“…we are to regard the PERSON giving it as a Master Mason, and it would be out indispensable duty to aid and assist them…”
The fact is, the vast majority of women only Masonic Obediences have no interest in participating in Male only or what would then be co-ed Masonry) any more than the vast majority of men are interested in participating in women only or co-ed masonry. Anyone that IS interested can always join a co-ed lodge as they do exist.
There are a few, a strident few, who make a lot of noise about forcing the regular Grand Lodges to open their doors to women, but the reality is, the regular Grand Lodge brethren are happy with the Grand Lodge as it is, a male only fraternity. Truth to tell, if people, men and women were really interested in co-ed masonry, there would be more co-ed lodges in the country.
What seems to be growing in numbers is women only lodges. More power to them, I wish them the best in their work and in achieving the goals we all set for ourselves in Freemasonry. They do no harm to regular freemasonry, in fact, as I have noted elsewhere, the world could use more people living as Masons. Why do we join Masonic lodges in the first place?
After all, Freemasonry is not about me changing them, its about me changing me.
Disclaimer: It is not my purpose to try to change your mind, or convince you of any position one way or the other. I am, as always, interested in your point of view.